“It seemed to be the right thing to do there, so I reached out to Soldier On president Jack Dowling, who came and made a presentation,” Burry said. “What I loved most about Jack’s presentation was that this is the rest of the story for the former fort.” “The average resident has had a number of decompensating events,” Dowling said. “When they come into our care that ceases. We are going to find a way to keep them so they don’t fail. Our mission is to offer a continuum of care that includes immediate and long-term housing with services delivered where they live. Our ultimate goal is to provide formerly homeless veterans with permanent, supportive, sustainable housing, assisting them in their transition from homelessness to homeownership.” TINTON FALLS – Following years of effort and last month’s unanimous approval from the Tinton Falls Planning Board, a comprehensive residential community for homeless veterans should open its doors to 70 former military personnel in 2021 on Essex Road, adjacent to Fort Monmouth. Kellie Donovan, Soldier On’s executive vice president, said residents come from a variety of outreach efforts, including referrals, veterans services offices, a toll-free hotline, the Jersey Shore Rescue Mission, and agencies like Red Bank’s Lunch Break. Applicants can contact the county’s Veteran’s Office, get on a waiting list and be certified. “The application for the final piece of money (to fund the project), $500,000, was approved,” Burry said afterward. “The money will be passed from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) through the county.” The project has a commitment of $8.1 million from the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, and another $1.5 million from the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York. “There are an estimated 300 homeless vets in Monmouth County,” Burry said. “This is not just housing. This is a full-service operation addressing the individual’s needs and a county need.” “As a result of Lillian’s steadfastness in supporting us over the years, a number of people came into our support system,” Dowling said. “That’s what makes this such a vibrant organism. We will be in touch with all of them going forward.” Burry has been seeking a location for a Soldier On community to complement the fort’s overall redevelopment since she was first appointed to the effort over seven years ago. She learned of Soldier On from her husband Donald, a retired Coast Guard captain, who read about it in an officers’ magazine. On Nov. 20, the organization’s top officials presented their application to Monmouth County Community Development along with Freeholder Lillian Burry, the county’s longtime representative to the fort’s redevelopment efforts. Despite initial support, finding a suitable location took an on-again, off-again long and winding road through the three towns the fort spans, Eatontown, Oceanport and Tinton Falls. As each potential location emerged, then failed to materialize, Donald Burry told his wife, “Don’t give up.” “Keeping women safe in their environment is critical,” Buckley said. “Some may have had military, pre-military, or post-military sexual trauma.” Added Dowling, “Maleness can be a threat for the women. All female staff assists them. Winn has helped us design a unique concept.” Added Burry, “Dignity is so important.” According to Bruce Buckley, Soldier On’s CEO, this will be the largest facility the organization has built to date, made possible by its affiliation with Winn Companies, a national leading operator of Low-Income Housing Tax Credit units. Finally, former Tinton Falls Mayor Gerald Turning, then a voting member of the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA), offered to donate the borough’s 11-acre Essex Road property adjacent to Seabrook Village. Helping get the ball across the Tinton Falls goal line was Gary Baldwin, an Air Force retiree who lives at Seabrook, who was a two-term president of its council, is the Tinton Falls Council President, and often attends FMERA meetings. The Tinton Falls facility will be called the Gordon H. Mansfield Veterans Community, as are all Soldier On projects, named for a paralyzed Vietnam veteran who became deputy secretary of the Veterans Administration and helped Dowling open the first Soldier On community. Amenities will include a multipurpose community room, outdoor patio and grills, a greenhouse and community garden, walking paths, communications technology in all units, and a memorial columbarium with an eternal flame where ashes of deceased residents can be interred. “They don’t die on the street and they don’t ever leave us,” Buckley said. A variety of support, therapeutic, wellness and life skills programs are offered. The community will be created and run by Soldier On, a nationally recognized 501(c)3 nonprofit organization with similar communities in Massachusetts, New York and elsewhere in New Jersey. Groundbreaking is expected on the four-story building in spring 2020, with construction taking one year to complete. Plans are to house primarily men in single-occupancy furnished units. Monmouth County Freeholder Lillian Burry, seated left, reviewed plans for a new community for homeless veterans with Soldier On officials, from left, Kellie Donovan, vice president; CEO Bruce Buckley; and Jack Dowling, president.Photo by Laura D.C. Kolnoski Seventy former military personnel who currently do not have a home will be housed at the building on Essex Road, adjacent to Fort Monmouth.Photo courtesy Soldier On Officials hope to break ground on the Gordon H. Mansfield Veterans Village in Tinton Falls next spring.Photo courtesy Soldier On “We have become intertwined with Winn and have accomplished a lot together. They are energetic, professional and have experience with a Marine hospital near Boston,” Buckley said. Winn has other New Jersey projects in Bridgeton, Jersey City and West Deptford. Resident management teams are responsible for rules, maintenance, transportation, treatment advice, intakes and discharges. Freeholder Burry has arranged for the county’s assistance with transportation via its SCAT program. Officials estimate less than one dozen occupants will be female. They will be housed in a separate section with its own entrance, laundry, elevator and more. By Laura D.C. Kolnoski The full-time staff includes a case and project manager and an attorney for wills, powers of attorney and health care proxies. Formerly homeless vets also serve their peers. For more information, visit wesoldieron.org.